AS we look back and reflect on 2018, I doubt there will be many among us who didn’t feel it was a challenging year, both nationally and locally.

In Westminster, the Brexit debates have rumbled on and on, plagued by gridlock and infighting in the Tory ranks as Parliament tries to steer a course that will hopefully maximise protections for jobs, workers’ rights and businesses in our constituency and throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.

Diplomatically, friends and foes alike have posed challenges of their own, and every one of us have found ourselves having to adjust to a fast-changing new world order.

Closer to home, the blight of rising foodbank use and homelessness, sadly, shows no signs of abating, while the decision by Warrington and Vale Royal College to close its Hartford Campus has been a body blow to further education in the town – a decision I am still campaigning to overturn.

But we’ve also seen positives. With Northwich Town Centre being shortlisted as a ‘rising star’ in the Great British High Street Awards, while more tenants moved into Baron’s Quay. The town was also chosen as the home of a state-of-the-art, £70 million centre of excellence for women’s football.

The Town Council also justly picked up ‘Council of the Year’ at the National Association of Local Councils’ awards. Politicians often get a bad name – sometimes justified – but believe me, Northwich is lucky to have town councillors who care passionately about it.

There are also the many untold stories of everyday humanity that give us hope for the future.

Whether it’s visiting schools and foodbanks, to charities and health care organisations in Northwich, I’ve seen the very best of people, facing up to the challenges laid down with dignity, commitment and a passion born from their desire to serve our communities and make Northwich a better place to live.

As we turn the page to 2019, we still face many of these challenges, with the looming Brexit climax sure to dominate most of the headlines and our thoughts as we head into the New Year.

But a new year also brings hope. Indeed, one of the things I’ve been hugely encouraged by during my tenure as MP for Weaver Vale is the passion and drive of our young people.

When I visit schools in Northwich I will often attend Q&A sessions with the pupils, and I never fail to be genuinely amazed and inspired by their levels of insight, and the passion they have for their communities and our country’s future.

This is a new generation that’s engaged on a huge a range of topics from politics and the environment, to social justice and world affairs. It’s a generation that is open minded and committed to a better future. And to that end, they won’t let people like me rest on our laurels, and that’s the way it should be.

So let us look towards 2019 with hope and a justified belief that, while we may live in challenging times we have the strength to face those challenges together, and that Northwich as a town is going from strength-to-strength.